Dear pastors, missionaries, chaplains and friends,
Steve Jones here… This week we celebrate Canada’s 149th birthday. That’s right, next year our nation turns 150 years old. Most Canadians think our country is pretty special. Studies commonly indicate that Canada is a nation to which many would like to move. We’re special. Often our identity is based on “not being American.” But are we unique?
Well, ask an American what a toboggan, a toque, or a knapsack are. Ask a Manitoban what a jam-buster, a bumper shine, nips, garbage mitts, or matrimonial cake are. Ask any American what a loonie, a Timmy’s, a two-four, Crispy Crunch, Big Turk, or washroom are and you’ll get a puzzled look. A few months back, I asked a waitress in New Orleans for an extra “serviette” and she looked stunned. So I said, “Oops, I mean napkin.” Ask anyone in Saskatchewan where to find Big Arm Bay, Eyebrow, Elbow, Knee Lake, Arm River, Head Lake, Skull Creek, Bone Creek or Moosejaw, and any good, decent citizen in Saskatchewan will point you the way to the many places in their province named after body parts. Ask an American where Saskatchewan is…well, you know the response.
When astronaut Mark Garneau was a passenger on the shuttle Challenger in 1984, he brought along a puck and hockey stick. Canadian Astronaut Robert Thirsk (2009) brought his copy of “The Hockey Sweater”, by Roch Carrier.
CANADA IS UNIQUE
My point is Canadians have many distinctives dissimilar to other nations – in particular to our “cousins” to the south. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not trying to “dis” the States. I admire much about our closest neighbours. But I’m also grateful for Canada’s unique place in the global neighbourhood.
Compare the national anthems of Canada and the US:
While Americans sing of a “perilous fight, ramparts, rockets, red glare and bombs bursting in air”, Canadians sing of “standing on guard for thee.” Kinder, gentler talk when speaking about defending our nation. The States rank as the #1 nation for military power. Canada is #25, just after the Philippines and Australia.
The USA’s national anthem had its beginnings in 1814 as a poem entitled, “Defence of Fort McHenry”, after an American lawyer witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships during the War of 1812. The Americans won that battle.
Canada on the other hand created and decided on its national anthem through a consensus, contests and parliamentarian bills. Kind of sounds Canadian, eh?
The music and French lyrics of Canada’s national anthem were written in 1880 to celebrate St. Jean-Baptiste Day. This day in June is now officially known as “moving day” in Quebec. It wasn’t until 1939 that our country settled on, “O Canada” as our de facto national anthem, and not officially until 1980. It took 100 years. Sounds very Canadian, eh?!
The English lyrics of the Canadian National anthem took longer to land on. A flurry of competitions in the early years of the 20th century came up with many possibilities. I read some of them. It’s interesting to note that God shows up in most of them.
- Thomas Bedford was a medical doctor from Toronto who wrote in 1906:
“O Canada! Our father’s land of old,
Thy brow is crown’d with leaves of red and gold,
Beneath the shade of the Holy Cross…
Almighty God! On thee we call…”
- Ewing Buchan, manager of the Bank of Hamilton in Vancouver wrote in 1908:
“O Canada, our heritage, our love,
Thy worth we praise all other lands above…
At Britain’s side, whate’er betide,
With hearts we sing, ‘God save the King’…”
- Mercy E. Powell McCulloch won a national anthem contest for Collier’s magazine in 1909:
“O Canada! In praise of thee we sing,
From echoing hills our anthems proudly ring…
Lord God of Hosts! We now implore,
Bless our dear land this day and evermore…”
After the failure of 14 bills dealing with the adoption of “O Canada” as our national anthem between 1962-1980, Parliament finally voted to adopt the version written by Robert Stanley Weir, penned in 1927 for the diamond jubilee of Confederation. Well, almost. Later, the government changed three lines from Weir’s original, “O Canada, glorious and free” was changed to “God keep our land, glorious and free.”
Have a wonderful Canada Day celebration this weekend. Thank God that Canada is so unique and blessed. Let’s all gather in prayer that God might once again become central to the hearts of Canadians as we call out to the Lord while singing our national anthem this July 1st… “God keep our land, glorious and free.” Yes, Lord, this is our prayer.
Have a blessed week,